17 April 2018

State racism against the Windrush generation

What has been happening to the Windrush generation of elderly people from the Caribbean and some former British colonies elsewhere is the most appalling racism, propelled by xenophobic nationalism.

Until the 1971 Immigration Act came into force, British ‘colonial’ citizens (i.e. those British citizens without parents and grandparents born in the UK) could migrate to Britain. And many did so to take up mainly low paid jobs in the Post War boom. The 1971 Immigration Act closed the gate, but those already in the UK in 1973 were given indefinite leave to remain; they were British citizens and had no need to naturalise. They had no papers to prove their citizenship; they simply didn’t need them. They built up their lives in the UK and by now many are mostly grandparents.

Until the second decade of the twenty-first century, one generally didn’t need proof of citizenship to go about one’s life in the UK (to take up employment, rent a flat, etc). The Windrush generation were like everyone else, British citizens living in Britain where one did not have to prove one's citizenship. If a person were in the UK illegally, it was up to the authorities to prove that.

Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment for illegal immigrants’ changed all that. In Britain, there are no identity cards, so it is now hard to function in daily life without a passport, as proof of British citizenship. This expensive document, originally intended only for travelling abroad, has became a necessity of life, even if you don’t ever plan to use it for its original purpose.

Simply because they can’t prove their citizenship status (ie. when they took up permanent residence in the UK decades after the event), thousands of elderly black British citizens are actually or potentially denied health care, the ability of take up jobs, rent a flat or are detained and threatened with deportation (or actually deported) to countries which they last saw as young children. Why is the onus on them to prove anything? As British citizens they broke no law in being unable to prove their citizenship. And just to prove the racist intent of the Home Office, even a casual official interview could establish that these people have lived in the UK for decades.

The Windrush generation, many of them vulnerable, were targeted for persecution on racial grounds to serve the appetites of a racist nationalist-xenophobia. The fact that to this end British citizens have been denied medical treatment and sacked from their jobs - and even in some cases deported from the country - through no fault of their own is an outrageous violation of human rights.

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